March 1, 2024
Military Aircraft

Military Aircraft: The Wings of Protection

Military aircraft play a vital role in providing security to nations around the world. From fighter jets to cargo planes, these aircraft equip armed forces with capabilities to defend land, air and sea borders.

Fighter Jets
Undoubtedly, the most well-known aircraft in any air force are fighter jets. These highly maneuverable aircraft are purpose built for air-to-air combat. Some of the most prominent fighter jets include:

F-16 Fighting Falcon
The F-16, produced by Lockheed Martin, is one of the most widely used fighter jets globally with over 4,500 aircraft delivered to 27 countries so far. The United States, Israel, Egypt and Pakistan operate the largest F-16 fleets. With excellent maneuverability and multi-role capabilities, the F-16 has proven itself in numerous air campaigns over the decades.

Su-30 Flanker
Sukhoi’s Su-30 is one of Russia’s most potent fighter jets, exported to many countries. Countries like India, China and Vietnam depend on the Su-30 as a primary military aircraft superiority fighter. Its ability to carry a large payload of missiles and bombs at long ranges makes it effective for air defense and ground attack roles. Several variants are being continuously upgraded to improve avionics and radar capabilities.

Eurofighter Typhoon
Developed jointly by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain, the Eurofighter Typhoon is among the most advanced 4.5 generation jets. It boasts supercruise ability to fly at supersonic speeds without using afterburners. The jet has strike and air defense versions configured with MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range missiles. Eurofighter Typhoons have been delivered to the air forces of seven European countries.

Bombers
While fighter jets engage in dogfights, bombers carry out precision strikes deep behind enemy lines. Here are some of the most widely used bombers worldwide:

B-2 Spirit
Northrop Grumman’s stealth B-2 Spirit is the world’s most expensive aircraft that can penetrate any defense. Only 21 were produced for the USAF due its exorbitant $737 million per plane price tag. However, each B-2 can carry 80 500-pound bombs or 16 2,000-pound GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions over intercontinental ranges.

B-52 Stratofortress
The big daddy of bombers, the B-52 has been in service with the USAF since 1955 and underwent several upgrades to continue operations till 2050. With a 185-ft wingspan, the propeller-driven B-52 has conducted conventional and nuclear deterrence missions from the Cold War to present-day conflicts like Afghanistan and Iraq. Over 744 B-52s were produced in different variants.

Tu-22M Backfire
As the Soviet strategic bomber force, Tupolev’s Tu-22M remains the backbone of Russian long-range strikes. Capable of Mach 1.8 supersonic dash speeds, the twin-engine variable-sweep wing bomber can engage targets upto 2,500 km away with lethal anti-ship and air-launched cruise missiles. Around 180 Tu-22Ms have been built with 60 remaining in service.

Helicopters
Rotary wing aircraft bring invaluable versatility to military operations worldwide. Here are some of the most common military helicopters:

AH-64 Apache
The Boeing AH-64 Apache is among the world’s most lethal attack helicopters, equipped with rockets, missiles and a nose-mounted 30mm automatic cannon. Flown by the U.S Army and exported worldwide, Apache pilots can precisely take down tanks and battlefield fortifications using radar/electro-optical targeting systems and helmet displays. Over 2,000 Apaches have been produced so far.

Mi-24 Hind
Nicknamed “flying tank”, Mil’s Mi-24 Hind established the ground attack helicopter concept during Cold War-era Soviet operations. Capable of speeds upto 250 mph, the twin-engine Hind could engage enemy armor from over 12 km away. India, Algeria and other countries continue to depend on the upgraded Mi-35 version for offensive air support.

CH-47 Chinook
The tandem-rotor CH-47 is the world’s most popular heavy-lift helicopter, in service globally with militaries and civil operators. Only the Chinook has the sheer cargo space and lifting capacity to transport tanks, heavy artillery and over 30 troops at a time into battlefields. Boeing has delivered over 1,200 Chinooks since 1962, with India recently finalizing a $1 billion deal for 15 Chinooks.

Surveillance Aircraft
Electronic intelligence and surveillance craft form another important category of military planes. These aircraft can detect signals and monitor wide areas without entering enemy airspace:

Boeing E-3 Sentry (AWACS)
Considered the “eye in the sky”, the blockbuster E-3 AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System)Plane can scan airspace up to 250 miles radius with powerful radars. Rotodomes on top house powerful phased array AN/APY-1 and AN/APY-2 radars, enabling continuous 360-degree coverage. NATO and countries like India, Saudi Arabia and Israel depend on the E-3’s reliable command and control abilities.

Lockheed EP-3
The EP-3 Orion is a signals intelligence aircraft used extensively by the US Navy prior to the unmanned drone age to gather radio transmissions, radar signals and other electronic emissions from naval fleets. Its low radar cross-section and advanced antenna arrays allowed discreet intelligence gathering missions worldwide during the Cold War era and beyond.

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  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research

2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it